How to Build a Home Gym Under $1000

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financial-fitnessPersonal fitness is even more important than financial fitness. What's the point in being financially independent if you don't have the stamina, strength, flexibility, endurance, or health to enjoy your freedom?

In high school I ran cross country in the fall and skied in the winter, but I never did any serious weight training or lifting. The Air Force requires a certain level of fitness, but besides knocking out 50+ pushups and situps in a minute and being able to run 1.5 miles once a year in less than 12 minutes, there's not much else required.

I realized in my mid-20s that while I wasn't obese, I was carrying a few extra pounds around the belly. This and the fact that I had never been the fastest or strongest kid on the playground motivated me to start looking into weight training. I found the Stronglifts 5×5 app and use it at least once a week to work on my strength goals. It's the easiest and cheapest motivation I've found to actually lift more weight and get stronger.

Home Gym vs. Corporate

20160218_102201_Richtone(HDR)My wife and I used to pay $70/month to go to the local YMCA. There were cheaper gym options out there, but none within walking distance. My sister pays $160/month for her Crossfit gym, which is probably on the high end for Crossfit type gyms. At $35/month per person, we were probably in the middle of the gym cost spectrum. I've heard of $5-10/month gyms in my area.

If you live on or near base, you can always use the on base gym as well. It's free and there's usually plenty of equipment. However, if you want to get a workout in while you are at home and you live 30+ minutes away from base, it can be difficult to justify driving to base and wasting a good part of your day.

At our previous address we lived in a small sized city and an 800 square foot apartment. There was definitely not enough room for a home gym or even a second bedroom! After PCSing across the country, we're now living in a house with a low ceiling basement (about 72″ or 6′ high). Besides storage and laundry, there isn't much useful space down there. However, there is just enough space (about 8′ x 6′) so I decide to finally achieve my dream of putting in a home gym.

Advantages of a Home Gym

  • Workout anytime you want
  • No commuting time to/from the gym
  • No recurring costs once you've purchased the equipment
  • Lower overall costs over the long run
  • Only pay for the equipment you want to use
  • Play your own music, as loud as you want (and sing along too!)
  • Shower in your own shower when you're done getting swole
  • No crowds or waiting for equipment
  • No embarrassment from struggling to bench press 135 pounds
  • You will workout more since it's easier to get to (remove barriers to success)

Disadvantages of a Home Gym

  • Higher initial cost
  • Takes up space in your home, garage, or basement
  • One more thing to pack up when you PCS
  • Less equipment available
  • Chance that you will buy equipment that you will not get much use out of

Building a Home Gym in My Basement

All you need for a great workout!

The main full body, compound lifts can be accomplished with just a barbell, weights, bench, and a squat or power rack. There's no need to waste money on Bowflex or any of those other expensive and silly “home gyms.” I try to incorporate deadlifts, squats, bench press, military (overhead) press, and barbell rows into my every other day lifting program.

I spend cardio days bike riding or running, listening to my Phaiser BHS-730 Bluetooth Earbuds, only $35 on Amazon. Great battery life and sound, plus they fit comfortably in my ears after I switched out the included rubber tips.

Home Gym Equipment:

Total Cost: $894

Barely clearing the ceiling
Barely clearing the ceiling

The house I am currently renting has a lower than standard ceiling. That means a normal squat or power rack would not fit. I needed a shorter than 72″ power rack. Thankfully, a quick Google search brought up Titan Fitness's T-2 Short Power Rack. Only 71.5″ tall, it fits perfectly in my basement even on top of my Tractor Supply Co. gym mats. These mats are great for dropping weights on them. Very heavy and durable, with a little rubbery smell that goes away after a week or so.

For the weights, if you can find weights on Craigslist than do that. Usually 50 cents to a dollar per pound is average for steel/metal weights and $1-1.50 for rubber bumper plates. Even though I live outside a major metropolitan area it was difficult to find barbell plates, especially bumper plates. I decided rather than waiting around for plates to pop up on Craigslist I would rather just buy plates faster.

Where to Cut Costs on a Home Gym

Weight is weight, usually. There's not much difference between a 45 pound plate that costs $30 and one that costs $90. While some companies promise tighter weight tolerances and longer lifetime, a home gym user will probably not use the plates enough to get anywhere close to the lifetime usage covered by the warranty.

For most of your weight, the cheapest set you can find will do just fine. I found a set at Dick's Sporting Goods for $249 (it occasionally goes on sale for $199) that included a 45 pound barbell and 2 of each: 45, 35, 25, 10, 2.5 and 4 5 pound weights.

Since I enjoy deadlifts, I decided to purchase bumper plates to cut down on the wear and tear and noise of dropping plates. Rogue makes expensive but quality equipment. The Echo bumper plates perform exactly as advertised. I recommend them.

For the barbell clamps, the pair Rogue sells goes for $36. I've used them and the cheap barbell clamps I found on Amazon and can find no difference. In this case I recommend going with the less expensive option that performs just as well as the name brand.

One thing I would change is getting a new barbell. The standard barbell that came with the 300lbs package deal is fine, but after using more quality barbells at the base gym I think it's worthwhile investing in a better bar. I'm looking at getting the Rogue Bar 2.0 once I make some extra TDY money.

How about you, reader? Do you enjoy working out at home or at the gym? Have you ever considered building your own home gym? If you've built your own home gym, let us know the stats!

4 thoughts on “How to Build a Home Gym Under $1000”

  1. I bought a cheapo bench press set from Wal-mart for $70, and it was great. Couldn’t lift very much with it but I sold it on Craigslist for $50 and got a ton of use out of it on my off days

  2. Hey Spencer. Nice article. I agree that physical health and fitness should be at the top of the priority list. Staying physically fit has so many positive effects on different areas of your life. As you may know, it’s beneficial to switch up your training routine every 6-8 weeks or so (keeps your muscles guessing). My workouts are also mostly comprised of those major compound lifts. I’m a big fan of DUP style training and like to switch it up every so often. If you haven’t seen this already, you may find some value in it:

    A wide variety of powerlifting programs that you can tailor however you like.


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